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Humanitarian highlights – Colombia

Protracted conflict is one of the most grueling humanitarian crises. Colombia faced 50 years of armed conflict until it recently signed peace accords in 2016. As a result, humanitarian aid has been key to support the local population. Here is an overview of the current situation in Colombia and how humanitarians are responding.

The Current Situation in Colombia

In 2016, the Colombian government signed peace accords with local guerrilla groups. This milestone agreement took place 52 years after the start of the armed conflict in the country. Over the half century, hundreds of thousands of civilians lost their lives, while over 5 million people were internally displaced. It also resulted in a large Colombian diaspora overseas.

Colombia is located in South America is home to nearly 50 million people and has significant natural resources. The Colombian conflict began in the mid-1960s, as discord between left and right-wing government factions.

However, over time it escalated to a multi-actor conflict involving the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), paramilitary groups, and crime syndicates. More recently, the conflict focused more on the economy, territory control, and drug cartels than political views.

In 2002, the situation began to improve significantly across the country, particularly in larger cities. The economy began to grow, while vast improvements were made in social welfare systems and security. That said, many areas continued under guerrilla control. These often suffered violence and continued to see internal displacement.

In 2017, 10,000 FARC combatants surrendered their weapons, beginning their transition to civilian life. They also gave up control of territories in favor of the Colombian government. One of the most recent issues has been the lack of public ability to provide security and social welfare in these transitional areas.

Humanitarian Response in Colombia

For decades, peace was the biggest agenda of humanitarian responders in Colombia. Thankfully, years of negotiations, peace accords were recently reached. Today, many NGOs and international organizations continue to accompany the peace process in Colombia, to ensure a smooth transition to a post-conflict society.

Over the last 15 years, there has also been a strong shift from humanitarian aid in a conflict setting to development programs. Organizations are now able to focus on social improvement. This includes education, equality, security, and overall quality of life. Meanwhile, in the areas that remain insecure, NGOs are working in protection and human rights.

As local NGO capacity grows in Colombia, local and grassroots organizations have sprouted up. They can provide aid and development programs that fit within the local context. They are also strong in innovation and community engagement. Meanwhile, international organizations continue to provide a strong backbone for funding, research, and cross-cutting programs.


NGOs that Work in Colombia

Plan International

Plan works with children and youth across the world. In Colombia, they focus on three specific areas: education, gender equality, and youth empowerment. Their programs range from early-childhood education and protection to youth employment. One of its flagship programs is #IAmAGirl, which seeks to improve gender equity and empower girls.

Danish Refugee Council

Explosive remnants of war (ERM) and improvised explosive devices (IED) are a devastating reminder of the Colombian conflict. The Danish Refugee Council works with local authorities to find and disable any mines that remain.

Also, the organization also works on the reintegration of ex-combatants, increased involvement of women in the peace process, and the prevention of recruitment of youth into gang groups.

Oxfam International

In Colombia, Oxfam addresses some key social issues. They work on improving human rights, particularly territorial rights, economic justice, women’s rights, and civil and political rights. Oxfam also runs a campaign against violence and rape. Also, they provide humanitarian emergency response as needed. economic justice, campaign against violence and rape, territorial rights, women’s rights, civil and political rights, humanitarian response when necessary

Oxfam (Source: Shutterstock)


Equitas focuses on improving governance and community involvement in the democratic process. They work with civil society organizations and community leaders to create more inclusive governance spaces. They also seek to empower youth, women, and children to participate in decision-making processes.

Colombian Red Cross

The Colombian Red Cross provides multi-faceted support throughout the Colombian territory. One of their essential areas of focus is medical support, emergency response and healthcare provision.

They provide a variety of health services in different contexts. These may include ambulances, vaccinations, health education, first aid, and blood banks among others. In emergency settings, the Red Cross deploys emergency response teams for search, rescue and medical help.

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